During the second half of the 19th century, Bergen in Western Norway was an international centre for leprosy. The city had the largest concentration of patients in Europe, catered for in three different leprosy hospitals. St George’s, the oldest, is now a museum recalling the personal tragedies of the thousands of people affected by the disease.
The stigma attached to leprosy brought about exclusion and humiliation. Did you know that leprosy was originally believed to be a genetic disease? Husbands and wives lived in separate quarters at the hospitals, and procreation was not encouraged – it was feared children would suffer the same fate as their parents. The last patient at St George’s Hospital died in 1946.
Book a tour of the Leprosy Museum to see the tiny rooms where the residents slept, the communal kitchen where they prepared their food and stored their belongings (a numbered cupboard was allocated to each one of them), and the church where they worshipped – all are perfectly preserved. Informative panels in English, many with disturbing illustrations, complete the picture.